Projects lack structure because of the values of project contributors.
As the four project types show, many projects make do without a defined project structure. This applies to *collectives* and *embedded projects*, but to a lesser degree can also influence work in *organizations*. The lack of structure is intentional and follows logically from the uniform path that leads people into open-source infrastructure projects: for the people who make it in the FOSS field, individual motivation and agency are core values. Our interviewees often saw the presence of governance structures as limiting their opportunities for action, decision-making and personal development.
- Projects that see themselves as a community (as opposed to an organization working with a community) value self-organization. Management and structure are treated with skepticism, even more so if they are implemented by external influences, such as a funder.
- Self-organization sets open-source infrastructure projects apart from companies that work in a similar field. Even if they share goals or work on the same products, the work culture is very different.
- Non-open-source organizations are likely to expect at least a basic structure and inner cohesiveness, especially when deliberating collaboration. Many open-source projects cannot deliver on this point – which stands in the way of more effective networking.
- Members of the community are affected differently by the lack of structure. While this can open up opportunities for taking greater responsibility, it can also lead to people feeling lost and, in the long run, dropping out.
“Our [community] rules are very developer-centric.”
“We have companies working with us – they need a contact person.”
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Providing examples of good practice for lightweight, result-oriented FOSS project structures can help communicate their benefits and make discussions about governance less dogmatic.
Facilitating dialogue between different actors in the field of open-source infrastructure (e.g. by supporting events that attract both communities and companies), can help both sides better understand their respective work culture and find ways to adapt.
Bringing professional moderators to community events can help foster more constructive dialogue.
Fiscal sponsors can be put in charge of financial administration; incorporate this into project overheads. Fiscal sponsors are mostly a North American phenomenon, uncommon in other parts of the world. Organizations on their way to becoming fiscal sponsors in their respective legal and tax system should be supported so as to make it easier for FOSS infrastructure projects outside the USA to comply with funders’ requirements.
Work with your applicants to create a budget that avoids project “bloat” – especially with short-term funding.